The Unbearable Banishment: Head on a stick

Friday, May 6, 2011

Head on a stick

Ai Weiwei is a contemporary Chinese artist. He helped design the "bird's nest" stadium for the Chinese Olympics and recently had an exhibit at the Tate Modern in London where he covered the turbine hall floor with sunflower seeds that were made from porcelain.

He is currently sitting in a jail cell in China. (No one knows exactly where.) He was snatched as he boarded a flight to Hong Kong. The government said he has committed "economic crimes." I don't suppose his detention has anything to do with his outspokenness, does it? China is a terrible, terrible place. They're not our friends.

A fantastic sculpture exhibit by Mr. Ai, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, just opened outside of the Plaza Hotel at Central Park South and 59th Street. The exhibit was long planned and he was supposed to be there for the opening, but it's hard to attend your opening when your legs are in shackles.

The bronze sculptures are 12 heads of the creatures of the Chinese zodiac. They're much, much bigger than I thought they'd be. I was told by the guy selling exhibit books and tee-shirts that they weigh 800 pounds each!

There's rat, ox, tiger...

...rabbit, dragon, snake..., goat, monkey...

...and rooster, dog, boar.

Dragon is, by far, the most beautifully rendered. Click on this and have a look.

The heads are replicas of versions that were made by European Jesuits for the Manchu emperor Qianlong. They were looted in 1860 when the Summer Palace was ransacked and burned by British and French troops during the Opium Wars. The Chinese government eventually retrieved five of them (ox, tiger, horse, monkey and boar). Two of them (rat and rabbit) are part of designer Yves Saint Laurent's art collection. The remaining five are presumed lost forever.

Unlike Mr. Ai, the exhibit is FREE! FREE! FREE! It runs through July 15th.

# # #

To every thing there is a season,

and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance.



Anonymous dinahmow said...

I knew you'd be back when you had something to say.

Oh my stars! Word verification is comboye. Sounds awfully like kumbaya. That's one for Mr. Ai!

May 6, 2011 at 11:49 PM  
Blogger Nimpipi said...

What dinahmow said. Welcome back.:)

I love Ai Wei Wei! (pronounced eye wee wee, right?)TIME did a profile on him and carried a picture of that coca-cola ming vase . I knew right then, here is a man I could get used to.

Seasons look lovely! Thank you for the contrast. I have to come to NY. You make me homesick for a place I've never been to!

May 7, 2011 at 2:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh man I love love love Ai Weiwei's work. Fuck it, what is wrong with this world that artists are imprisoned. I give up, I despair.

May 7, 2011 at 4:36 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Dinah: This blogging stuff can be pretty time consuming. And the pay is awful. I needed a break.

Nimpipi: Actually, it's Way Way Eye. In China, the family name is first. The seasonal pics are an excellent example of recycling. Thanks.

Daisy: His family has no idea where he is. Awful. Wish, wish, wish I could have seen the Tate show.

May 7, 2011 at 7:30 AM  
Blogger sukipoet said...

I hope he will be okay. such talent.

love your photo story too.

May 7, 2011 at 7:41 AM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

i'm a tiger. and will be visiting you again in the summer... how long is this exhibit up? i love it!

oh, and you've mistaken nursemyra's comment for mine... so very flattered that you've gotten us mixed up. but i'm the bigger, lumpy one...

May 7, 2011 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Eryl said...

Did you say eight hundred pounds each? Crikey.

Free exhibitions are the best: they allow people who may not otherwise do so to drop in and feel the value of art.

I'm just waiting, now, for that time to dance. Hope I didn't miss it.

May 7, 2011 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

They're fantastic! Especially the dragon. I don't understand the Chinese at all. Whatever their Communist view point is, it sure doesn't allow for anyone to have a voice about anything. I hope he will be okay and will be released soon.

Love the seasonal shots too. We're past the snow, but not yet at the fully leafed out trees and bushes yet. In fact, the trees only now have fattening buds. But it won't be long before everything changes from winter dead brown to glorious spring green!

May 7, 2011 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Suki: Thanks but I borrowed those lines from a popular source.

Nurse: isn't that a funny mistake! I wonder what Freud would say?

Eryl: I love stumbling across outdoor exhibits. It's one of the advantages of this dirty town.

Ponita: Did you ever think this wx would break? I feel like we were punished but can't connect the crime.

May 7, 2011 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger JZ said...

thanks for sharing this....i was wondering how big these things were....the published images ahead of time gave me the impression they were the size of melons....don't you worry your pretty little head about soon as peak oil makes shipping too expensive, we can detest them from afar...rather than from the local Wal-Mart.

May 7, 2011 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

Interesting and thought provoking post.
My favourites are the bridges - so beautiful. I hope he is free soon - if he deserves to be.

May 8, 2011 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger Ellie said...

The Economist just got a letter from the Chinese Embassy in the UK starting "SIR – Your criticisms of China in the Ai Weiwei case were unwarranted, show a disrespect for our judicial sovereignty and are an attempt to interfere with our internal affairs" .... makes one roll one's eyes.

May 8, 2011 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

JZ: They're HUGE! I should have posted a pic with someone in it to provide scale. And I *am* worried about China. Those guys will have us for breakfast.

Pat: This exhibit is traveling to London, if you find yourself in the neighborhood.

Ellie: China. Ptu. They'd be easy to ignore if only they weren't so damn powerful.

May 8, 2011 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger tennysoneehemingway said...

He was arrested simply for blogging how oppressive life can be in China. Hope goes out to him. Love the pictures.

May 10, 2011 at 8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful exhibit! Wish I could see it in person, but the pictures are great.

May 22, 2011 at 11:12 PM  

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